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Designing and Implementing an Online GIS Program: Challenges, Benefits and Lessons Learned

Authors: Stephanie Long*, Austin Community College
Topics: Geographic Information Science and Systems, Geography Education, Higher Education
Keywords: competency based education, cbe, online, gis
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper will discuss in detail the challenges, benefits and lessons learned through designing and implementing an online GIS program following the competency based education (CBE) format. The five traditional courses of the Level I GIS Certificate award within the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Department at Austin Community College (ACC) were assessed and re-designed in the CBE format. This meant developing organized competencies with clear learning objectives which met the course level student learning outcomes. It also meant aligning course materials (lecture slides and videos, readings, lab exercises and videos) and assessments (projects, quizzes and tests) with the competencies in a way that meets all levels of the hierarchical classification of complexity in Bloom’s Taxonomy. Varied teaching techniques were implemented to engage online students through technologies such as Google (Docs, Forms, Chat, Hangouts, Meet, Maps, Gmail), Blackboard (assessments with canned feedback and custom feedback), PowerPoint (annotated lecture slides), WebEx (virtual guest speaker series), ArcGIS Online (assessment submission, project data, etc.) and VidGrid (lecture and lab videos). Benefits of this program implementation to the entire GIS program will be discussed. Student comments on faculty evaluations prove that students are engaged, find the work relevant to the real world, and appreciate the organization of the competencies on the course website. The program started with just 14 students in the pilot. Today the program has seen multiple awards granted and over 90 course completions, some in as little as 5.5 weeks.

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